There are few certainties around the league but something that is seemingly becoming an annual tradition is the Blackhawks making moves to tap dance under the NHL’s salary cap. There have been no shortage of casualties over the years – Dustin Byfuglien, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Ladd are among the many that have had to go elsewhere – and as Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune notes, center Artem Anisimov is a candidate to join that ever-growing list.
In a breakdown of which teams could be potential trade partners for Chicago, Hine states that Anisimov has been rumored to be on the trade block despite his strong production and reasonable contract.
Anisimov has four years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $4.55MM, not exactly a premium price for a second line pivot nowadays. Worth noting, he joined Chicago as part of the Saad deal as a cheaper top six forward, signing his current deal immediately after the trade.
Despite missing 18 games due to various injuries (including a lower body issue that caused him to miss the final 13 regular season contests), he set a career high in points last season with 45. It marked the second straight year that he hit the 40 point plateau after only reaching that mark just once in his first six seasons.
Based on that alone, it would seem like a no-brainer for GM Stan Bowman to want to keep him around. However, they already have over $76MM in payroll committed for next season per CapFriendly while they still to re-sign a few players in defenseman Michal Kempny, winger Tomas Jurco, and center Dennis Rasmussen. The salary cap isn’t expected to go up much beyond the $73MM upper limit from this season so some cuts will need to be made.
Hine adds that the team believes they may be able to use Nick Schmaltz or Tanner Kero in Anisimov’s second line spot which would free the team up to move the soon-to-be 29 year old. Schmaltz just wrapped up his first professional season, recording 28 points (6-22-28) in 61 games while Kero split the season between the NHL and AHL, recording 16 points (6-10-16) in 47 NHL contests. Both players have two years remaining on their contracts with cap hits of $925K and $750K, respectively.
The Blackhawks have been forced to make cost-cutting moves in the past and for the most part have been able to land a quality return. At a time where there are few top six centers available, Bowman could be poised to capitalize on a sellers’ market and bring in some more quality youngsters into the organization, freeing up a sizable chunk of cap space in the process.